Series Introduction: Customer Care Experiences from the Other Side

My desire as a power user to get what I want from software is always tempered by my days in the early 2000s as an Internet trainer, the mid-2000s doing customer support at Bryght (the Drupal-powered hosted service, not the online furniture retailer), and, maybe to a lesser extent doing client work in the early 2010s at OpenRoad and Chapter Three. Those experiences gave me insight into the possibilities and limitations software companies face in delivering customer and client happiness.

As part of an effort to get back in the game of directly supporting an open source project, I've been reviewing the good and not-so-good support experiences I've had as a consumer of web-based software to see what lessons the project can apply. After that review, I came to the conclusion that in the last year or so, the online software industry, technical support as a profession seems to have leveled-up, as it were, with room for improvement.

Over the course of this week and next, I'll post my experiences as a consumer of technical support, the good and not-as-good, with the names of the innocent and guilty removed. I'll post lessons that support agents and customer care managers can learn from both the good and not-as-good experiences from the other side.

Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.

I Can't Wait to Eat That VR Headset!


VR headset with smartphone hold


I'm still in the "rolling my eyes" phase about virtual reality, but what do I know? While visiting Human at their Gastown office, I got to try out some of the gear they had, and the coolest experiences were playing a video game (an emulated version of Super Mario Brothers) and watching a movie, both projected on a 'drive-in' theatre that I walked up to inside the virtual world. There was talk of doing a group-buy for a VR headset, and here we are, mere hours after the Tilt for the very headset you see above ended, and I can almost taste it.

Despite being skeptical about consumer uses of VR (inside-the-organization use, like for training, that I'm not skeptical about), I'll give this a shot. There are evidently quite a few apps for the iPhone that work with this kind of thing. I'm particularly interested in doing virtual tours of far-off places, like in the View-Master demo video (the more mundane the better) and figuring out zany ways to jam the various web APIs out there directly into my eye-sockets.



North Cariboo Air

We did fly in on this North Cariboo Air airplane, but it looked so lonely! I asked if I could take its photo, and it obliged.

On the way to Osoyoos

The drive from Penticton to Osoyoos, by way of Oliver, features this striking view from the car, barrier included.

Three trains passing

Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad


I didn't know what to expect from the Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad. I certainly didn't expect a slice of Europe, build in painstaking detail by a German couple who moved to the town because it was the hottest place in Canada.


They even built a Smart Car dealership!

The view from the hotel room balcony

The hotel room we stayed in looks upon the northern view of Osoyoos Lake.

Looking at Osoyoos.

Haynes Point Provincial Park wetlands

On Sunday morning, I went for a run from the hotel to Haynes Point Provincial Park, where I saw this view (and ate many bugs). On my way back I walked through the wetlands...

Drive-thru mailboxes

...saw some drive-thru mailboxes...

Banged up race car

...and a banged-up race car.

Thunderstorm rolling in

My brother read about Spotted Lake, a saline endorheic alkali lake.

The Okanagan Valley from the lookout

We took a minute to view the Okanagan Valley from a lookout point before a storm cloud rolled in.

Double rainbow!

After the thunderstorm passed, a double rainbow greeted us at the hotel.

Okanagan view

We dropped my aunt off at her house, and beheld another view of the Okanagan.

Using Siftlinks and IFTTT to Aggregate Links From Your Twitter Timeline Into a Slack Channel

Ever wonder if there was an easy way to get the links people post to a Twitter timeline fed into a Slack channel? Wonder no more!

For this Rube Goldberg machine to work, you’ll need 3 components:

  • A Twitter account.
  • A Siftlinks account tied to your Twitter account. Siftlinks is a paid service that makes an RSS feed out of the links posted to your timeline (as well as an RSS feed of links from your Twitter favorites) and offers a 30-day free trial. After that it’s $10 a year. That’s 83.3 cents a month. Cheap cheap!
  • An IFTTT account.
  • A Slack team and a channel to post links to.

After following the instructions below, you get something looking like this screenshot my #links channel from a few minutes ago:

Screenshot of my #links channel in Slack.


  1. Login to Siftlinks with your Twitter account.
  2. If you haven’t already, activate the Slack channel in IFTTT.
  3. Create a channel in Slack just for links incoming from Twitter. It might make sense to use an existing channel, but the large amount of links in my timeline doesn’t justify it, so I post to a separate #links channel that I dip my toes in every couple of hours.
  4. Create a new recipe in IFTTT.
  5. Select Feed as the trigger channel.
  6. Select “New feed item” as the trigger.
  7. Title the recipe “Filtered Siftlinks to Slack”
  8. Siftlinks provides the RSS feed for you to paste in at this point. It’s the URL in “Here’s the latest links in your Twitter feed. You access them via RSS by adding [your secret URL here to your RSS Reader.” message at the top of the screen in Siftlinks.
  9. For the Action, select the channel you want to post in.
  10. As the Message, use just {{EntryUrl}}.
  11. Leave the Title, Title URL, and Thumbnail URL fields blank. Slack will gather the title and some information about the link on its own.

At some point, Siftlinks promised to add a feature to filter out image links (, Instagram, etc.) and other URLs like Foursquare/Swarm and Untappd checkins. I couldn’t wait, so I use Yahoo! Pipes to filter out URLs that start with certain domains and used the RSS feed it produces in place of step #8. (That list is up to 16 domains, by the way.)

What this won’t show is who posted the link. That means you can evaluate whether you should click through based on its content, not who shared it.

Why not use Slack’s built-in RSS integration? That integration pulls in the metadata (like title and description) from the RSS feed itself. The metadata-gathering Slack does itself when presented with just a URL is much prettier.

I pull in a few other RSS feeds this way—i.e. using IFTTT—and have them post URLs to Slack channels, like a Talkwalker alerts feed for news about the game Ingress and an RSS feed I made out of using XPath (I wasn’t the only one who did that). Slack is my second-favourite RSS aggregator these days1, a fun way to see what links get posted to my Twitter timeline without having to visit Twitter at all.


Also published on Medium on May 14th, 2015.

  1. Reeder for both the Mac and iOS is my #1 fave at the moment. ↩︎

Bare-Bones Sports Alerts in Slack

You might remember from such blog posts as the one on March 24th of this year that I built a Twitter client using Slack as the platform. On the train to HUMAN’s studio-warming, I saw a blog post from Slack about how to add Twitter integration to a team and channel. At first when I read it, I was dismayed that they had implemented what I wrote with Slack-Twitter (i.e. the ability to get your entire Twitter timeline in a Slack channel and post to Twitter from that same Slack channel).

On closer inspection, though, it wasn’t that at all, but rather a nuanced approach to ‘following’ a single Twitter account inside a Slack channel. Instead of my approach, they pitch it as a way to get alerts from one or a just a few accounts, like, for example, a transit agency’s tweets in a Slack channel.

In the course of trying to figure out what they meant by that, I added an official Twitter integration to my test Slack team, and used the @MLBHR Twitter account to notify that channel of every home run. (If you want notifications of just home runs by Toronto Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnación, you can do that with the Eddie’s Right Arm account, which RTs just the dingers socked by Eddie.)

To get home run alerts in a Slack channel:

  1. Follow the instructions at Slack for setting up a Twitter integration.1
  2. Make the settings look like the following screenshot.
    • Uncheck "Post tweets sent TO this account"
    • Check "Post tweets sent FROM this account"
    • The other settings in "Auto-Post Tweets in Slack" don’t matter so much, but might if you use a different Twitter account.
    • You’re on your own for finding a good icon to use.

Screenshot of a Slack channel configured to get home run alerts in a channel

That’s it! Now you have dingers in your channel. You can expect it to look something like the following:

Screenshot of a Slack channel showing home run alerts

You get all the benefits of Slack (search, highlight words, etc.) without actually having to follow the account on Twitter.

I’d love to know if there’s a Twitter account for every NHL goal and…I’m not sure what to get alerted about for basketball games. (What happens often enough to happen once or twice a game, but not more than a half-dozen times? And is there a Twitter account for that?) Until publications like ESPN add their own integrations, this is a fun, bare-bones way to get alerts like position players pitching and touchdown notices and the like in your Slack channel.

Also published on Medium on April 16th, 2015.

  1. If you have Slack-Twitter up and running, you’ve done this part, but have to add another instance of the integration. Hold on, you have Slack-Twitter up and running? Tell me how it’s going! ↩︎

Introducing Slack-Twitter

Have you heard of Slack? If you work in the tech industry, or have friends who work in the tech industry, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of it, (though I do still encounter tech-savvy people who haven’t heard of it). The explanations of what it is vary depending on whom you talk to. It’s often described as group chat with link previews or an email-killer. It’s really whatever it is you want it to be since it can integrate with just about anything.

“An API for knowledge” is a pretty good, if maybe abstract, descriptor of what it is. Matt Haughey, in a podcast announcing his retirement from MetaFilter and his new job at Slack, described his employer’s product as a toy that people use at work. I liked that description so much that I left the Slack teams that didn’t have a well-defined purpose (such as work) or topic (such as the Ingress faction I belong to).

Since I’m now spending quite a lot of time using Slack, I wanted a way to read tweets in Slack. The official Twitter integration for Slack “only” pulls in mentions and expands tweet URLs so that it shows the entire text (and photo if there is one) of the tweet. That’s pretty darn cool, but there’s no functionality within the official integration to have your own timeline, i.e. the tweets of people you follow, show up in Slack nor is it possible to post tweets from Slack. Using Twitter’s Streaming API and Slack’s Real Time Messaging API, I built the middle piece that do those two things. I can post tweets from Slack and read tweets from my timeline. Cool, right?

You have to know a little bit about Twitter and Slack tokens to get this hooked up. You don’t have to host the program yourself: once you’ve gotten the tokens sorted out, you can quickly deploy it to Heroku. I recommend, nay, urge you to hook this up to a separate channel for the single purpose of reading and posting tweets. Posting any message under 140 characters will be published on your Twitter account.

I’ve only tried this with my personal Slack “team” and not a real world example. I can see how this might be interesting for a group to join the channel and read the tweets that the organization account follows, as well as ‘collaboratively’ post. I can’t wait to see what bugs that might cause, in a very public way.

It crashes every now and then, thanks to a memory leak somewhere along the line. There’s another heisenbug that periodically tweets a URL of a tweet from your timeline but I don’t know the pattern yet. Still interested? Take a look at the instructions and deploy to Heroku. It’s free!


Also published on Medium on March 24th, 2015.

My 2014 in Books

As part of the Goodreads reader challenge, I intended to read 25 books over the course of 2014. I only got to 17. I struggled in the summer months to find the motivation to read. James Clear's system to read 30+ books a year gives me hope that I can read a less ambitious 20 books this year.

Screenshot from Goodreads showing the covers of the books I read in 2014

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman were books I finished having started in 2013, the former being a book club selection. I read The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers after hearing about references to it in commentary about True Detective (see also io9's report). I read Endgame by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton in anticipation of the multi-media experience about to come (and as part of its connection to the game Ingress). Hotel Eden by Ron Carlson was the selection for the 24-Hour Book Club, but I read it over the course of a month. I devoured The Morning After by Chantal Hébert and Jean Lapierre over the course of 18 hours late in the year. I also devoured Great Expectations by reporters Shi Davidi and John Lott as they catalogued the disastrous 2013 Toronto Blue Jays season. On a trip to Vancouver Island, I saw Unbreakable: The Ujjal Dosanjh Story by Douglas P. Welbanks in the ferry gift shop and thought "Someone wrote a book about Ujjal Dosanjh and didn't inform me?" In my quest to read everything she's written, I read the very short The Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith in one sitting. I made a purchase request for and read Chasing the Perfect: Thoughts on Modernist Design in Our Time by Natalia Ilyin on Joe Clark's recommendation, and posted three passages from the book on my Tumblr about home, amber, straight lines. The rest were books I borrowed from my dad or about electronics.

I liked the blog posts that Amy Qualls and Diana Kimball wrote about their year in books.

Just a Gwai Lo Now Powered by Drupal 7

This blog is now powered by Drupal 7. I’m redirecting some content that Drupal 7 wouldn’t handle to my archive site thanks to the Rabbit Hole module. (Assuming DNS has propagated to you, my SkyTrain Explorer journal should be a live and well, along with some link-blog posts and other whatnots.) This is also going to be a test of the Vinculum module's support of Webmention, since my site powered by Known supports it out of the box. Some related links can be found on the post in question.

2014 Eastside Culture Crawl

Man in the Mirror

Standing outside David Robinson's gallery on the 4th floor of the 1000 Parker Street building was a man in a mirror.

1000 Parker is immense and labyrinthine, overflowing with artist studios and workshops. Reflecting on my previous visits there, it was only ever for client meetings in an office at the front, and never into the back. A definite must-visit during the crawl if you can stand a little bit of close-quarters with other art-goers.

My finger inside the barrel of a ray gun

My finger lighting up the glass

Sasamat Creative had a tiny little room in the Mergatroid Building, showing off their neon gas creations that responded to touch thanks to our own conductivity. I got to touch their orange geometric shape and ray gun (shown below). The Georgia Straight profiled them in this year's Culture Crawl issue

Ray gun, $1,000

Process and result

I loved visiting the artist work areas converted into galleries for the weekend, seeing the tools, large and small, that people used to make their creations.

Vegetable dumbbells

A photo posted by Richard Eriksson (@sillygwailo) on

The vegetable dumbbells I encountered in 1000 Parker were very odd, and very heavy. Not shown are the photographs next to this by the same artist of buses printed on old maps.


A photo posted by Richard Eriksson (@sillygwailo) on

Walking into the Mergatroid Building, who did I run into but Jason Vanderhill and his bust. What a strange sight to see someone looking into their own eyes.

Alain Boullard

A photo posted by Richard Eriksson (@sillygwailo) on

Also at the Mergatroid, we watched as Alain Boullard painted a portait.

Matchsticks art at Propellor Design in Strathcona

Art at the entrance of Propellor Design in Strathcona


A photo posted by Richard Eriksson (@sillygwailo) on

After crawling through 1000 Parker and the Mergatroid building, I set about walking the area around Hastings and Clark to play Ingress, coming across a Jimi Hendrix mural and Vespa Motors. Stumbling around Strathcona, I encountered Propellor Design, which garciously let me take photographs of their mountain ranges, matcstick art, and workshop.


A photo posted by Richard Eriksson (@sillygwailo) on

Jérémie Laguette welcomed crawlers into his abode, and this sign greeted us at the door.

Parking lot of 1000 Parker during the Eastside Culture Crawl

Here's the scene, from David Robinson's gallery, of the food carts and gatherings in front of 1000 Parker St.

Nick Gregson

A photo posted by Richard Eriksson (@sillygwailo) on

Nick Gregson let us watch as he painted in his drawing of the Vancouver skyline as seen from North Vancouver.

Tiny entrance on the side of the Grandview Cavalry Baptist Church

On the Sunday, I went around Victoria Drive and came across the Grandview Cavalry Baptist Church. This sign just outside the tiny entrance beckoned me in to the ceramics studio in the basement.

Hot Talks at Hot Art Wet City: Eastside Culture Crawl Artists Speak

The Eastside Culture Crawl, where artists invite you into their studios (many of which are their homes) to see their creations, takes place November 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd. Visit the Culture Crawl website (which, disclosure, I help maintain) for more information. Tonight, at Hot Art Wet City, a wee little studio on Main & 6th Ave., I heard from several artists talk about their work and how they do it. I took only the briefest of notes, so I hope to have captured at least a little of what they had to say.

Jon Shaw (Culture Crawl profile) talked about this paintings of alleyways, devoid of people but replete with evidence of people. He expressed an interest in graffiti, what he referred to as “street typography.” I'm particularly drawn to his his baseball bat and blue jay for reasons obvious if you follow me on Twitter.

Blue Jay

Baseball bat

Robin Ripley (Culture Crawl profile) showcased her tree art, referring particularly to her installation at the Sun Yat-Sen garden, which comes down on Monday. I'd better get out there to see it!

Patsy Kay Kolstar (Culture Crawl profile) regaled us with her story of how she ended up in Farmington, PA for a three-day workshop in her quest to make one-of-a-kind jewelry. She blogs at My Life in Jewels.

Claire Madill (Culture Crawl profile) had the most to say about the business side of art, introducing me to the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition and her porcelain graffiti spray can.

David Robinson (Culture Crawl profile) gave the most conceptual talk of the night, the word ”monument” coming up a lot, and figures as an ”extinct” art. He highlighted his Equestrian Monument and his work with plinths. If he's written a book, I'd sure like to read it.

Jerk With a Camera (Culture Crawl profile) showed us his photography, especially his purposeful mistakes, such as his film and digital double exposures. He, like Jon Shaw, explores the depths of Vancouver trying to find that perfect shot.

Holly Cruise (Culture Crawl profile) showed us her glass robots (below) and told us funny stories about raising kids while managing and working and finding time to make her wonderful art.

Tiny glass art by Holly Cruise

A photo posted by Richard Eriksson (@sillygwailo) on

Glass Robot

A photo posted by Richard Eriksson (@sillygwailo) on

We Can Explore an Endlessly Generated World Freely

John Crowley: “To live at once in a time recoverable by a particular sacred calendar and also by a time without qualities, counted as it passes, involves a sort of mental doubling that is perhaps comparable, in the richness it grants to thought and feeling, to growing up bilingual: two systems, each complete, funny when they collide, each supplying something the other lacks, bearing no command to choose between them. Like a hamster in a Run-About Ball, we can explore an endlessly generated world freely by turning inside the vehicle of our closed and demarcated calendars.”

Vancouver Design Week Bike Tour

As part of Vancouver Design Week 2014, a senior urban designer from the City of Vancouver took us on a 3 hour bike tour of Vancouver's architecture. We started in Olympic Village, made our way north on the seawall to Chinatown, then rode through Gastown to the convention centre, after which we biked to Stanley Park and then to Third Beach, ending at Mole Hill.

View of Yaletown from SE False Creek

I got there 3 hours early because of a hilarious mixup. The time zone on the event listing was EDT, so what looked like 1 PM on the website was actually 10 AM. I emailed the organizer asking which one it was, but never heard back. So I had time to kill in SE False Creek.

Giant bird

We met by one of the giant birds in the Athletes Village Square. Not this one.

Fountain in Athletes Village courtyard

Walkway in Athletes Village courtyard

The fountain and walkway, open to the public but with a semblance of privacy, adds to the sense of calm in the neighbourhood.

Our guide pointed out the non-market housing that didn’t have any telltale signs on the outside.

Gastown setback

I spent a year working in Gastown not noticing the setback office buildings in historic historic Gastown.

Richard Henriquez building in the West End

Richard Henriquez building on Barclay St. and Lagoon Dr. The building has a listing on Condopedia and, well, there’s a thing called Condopedia.

Mole Hill courtyard

Mole Hill Creek Lookout

We ended the tour at Mole Hill, with a creek running through it, there's this tiny lookout.

Mole Hill Gate

Looking out from Mole Hill to Comox St. I biked past this spot at night once.

Terms and names that came up that gave me fodder for researching later on: Carlos Carpa, extrusion, micro-economy, envelope (as it relates to buildings), modest market housing, street wall, contemporary contextualism, Adolf Loos, Eugenia Place, Silvia Hotel, the history of the Cactus Club on Beach Ave.

Alternatives to the Best Way to Discover a Strange City

True, Google Maps can give you audible turn-by-turn directions for a route it determines is the best route based on speed. Lacking a bike mount to hold my iPhone, I have yet to try using an app telling me how to get somewhere with cycling directions. I have, however, used audible walking directions few times. Google Maps cannot yet accept an existing route in machine-readable format it and speak out turn-by-turn directions for that route.

Patrick Collison's idea for experiencing a strange city is sound if you know points A and B and want the most efficient route. If you want an inefficient way to experience a strange city, assuming you know points A and B, you can use Plot A Route (see below), where you can set the starting and end points, a total distance to travel, and it will generate several alternatives to choose from.

If you want to end up where you started, and don't want to take the beaten path, you could let a computer could decide for you where to start and where to go. I wrote instructions to use web-based tools to pick a random starting point within a city and then, using that point, create a randomly generated route loop. Using the resulting GPX file, you can import it into your favourite turn-by-turn directions app. You can be guaranteed to see parts of the city not highlighted in tourist guides. (Technically, you can't really be guaranteed anything.) The only iOS app I know that can do this is Co-Rider by Applied Phasor, designed for use only when cycling. (I've used this for jogging a few times. You might remember that I wrote about random running routes from random starting points.)

Some interesting tools:

  • RouteXL takes multiple points (i.e. more than 2) and finds the most effecient route between all of them.
  • OptiMap generates efficient round trips (it assumes you’re coming back to your starting point) for multiple desitnations in between.
  • Plot a Route takes 2 points and a distance and plots out a route of that distance. As example, say you live near Vancouver General Hospital and you work on Granville Island. You want to jog to work, but the "commute" is too short. The most effiecient route from VGH to Emily Carr University is not 5 kilometers, and that was how much you wanted to run. Presented below is one of the many options it gave me:

Two Weeks of Ingress

While leaving a BBQ celebrating a friend's 50th birthday party, Richard Smith's tweet pointing out the Ingress app had been released for iOS flowed through my stream. For the last two years, owners of Android-based Internet communicators have been playing the GPS-enabled, location-based massively mouthful role-playing game. One hacks portals, deploys resonators, links them up with others, and attacks enemies' fortresses while belonging to one of two factions, either the Resistance or the Enligtenment. After Tim Bray, as longtime a player as one can be, wrote a warm welcome to iOS users, I followed his advice, joining the faction then behind in the worldwide standings. (I missed the part where he said to narrow it down to your geography.)

At this writing, I'm at level 6, which regulars inform me is the level to start serious attacks on rival portals. Tonight, barring unforeseen circumstances like the local transit meltdown that spooked me last week, I will meet fellow players for the first time at their weekly meetup. I've had a couple of near-encounters, with one high-level fellow faction member sending me a message saying he was across the street. Lousy notifications in the current incarnation of the app prevented me from seeing the message until a few hours later. I now assume that anybody walking while looking down at their phone is either a friend or foe on Ingress.

Many questions remain, all of which I'll ask in due course as I get my feet even wetter. The feature requests I have for the app are

  • Background navigation. That is, after exiting the app, I'd like the voice to keep me updated on how close I am to a portal I've chosen to hack.
  • Notifications of in-game events, such as an portal being attacked, resonators decaying, someone mentioning me in the faction chat. I don't know the implications of what notifications would bring: maybe the game is designed for playing on the go or setting out on a planned exploration rather than having your day interrupted with attempts to destroy your protectorate.

Virgin Mary in the courtyard behind the Holy Name of Jesus Church

Playing Ingress has led to some interesting Columbusings. It pulled me into the entrance of B.C. Children's and Women's Hospital, a place I haven't had a need to visit. (Yet.) The second sighting was the walkway to a publicly-accessible sitting area in the courtyard behind of the Catholic Church at Cambie and 34th. It also led to the Virgin Mary statue in the back yard church at Cambie and 33rd. A third sighting, related to the fact I was also playing Fog of World at the time, was a bike rack on private property next to a large home. Lastly, on Yukon and W. 10th, next to the bench facing the bike lane is a plaque commemorating Dad's cookies factory (my photo). It seems that Dad's cookies are a treat invented by an American who named the company after his father-in-law that had Canadian bakeries (Vancouver is not listed on the company's history page).

The game takes me outside of my well-worn routes, sometimes doubling the time it takes me to get somewhere. Now that I have the basics understood, it's time to interact with some of the players and go on group missions.

Monday Morning Meeting: Issue #6

Links randomly selected from the stuff I saw the previous week. Social issues and technology; a procedurally generated video game makes a big splash at E3; a surprisingly insightful review of a web series; and an autobiographical critique of Modernism. Some links are from longer than a week ago.

People, Not Data: On disdain and empathy in Civic Tech

“I feel awkward and ashamed to know the relative sizes of all 400 Sci-Fi starships, but I barely have a clue how our homeless shelters or prisons work.” Jake Solomon's Code for America colleague Rebecca Ackerman signed up for food stamps in San Francisco (she declined the money) and they put together a timeline of the paperwork involved. They also wrote instructions on how to create your own timeline using TimelineJS and Google Docs). In this manifesto for more empathetic communication between government agencies and their clients, Solomon laments having the technology but lacking the will to build tools with users in mind rather than (or in addition to) fulfilling legal requirements.

Similar ideas I read around the same time: It's Not You, It's The System, San Francisco’s (In)Visible Class War.

Welcome back to No Man’s Sky

Since “playing” (more like “experiencing”) Proteus, where one visits an 8-bit island unique to each time someone plays the game, I’ve wanted something just a little closer to realism. No Man's Sky (no release date yet) will be that game: the interplanetary—nay, intergalactic—exploration game has the same generative elements as Proteus in more vivid detail. BBC's Dave Lee, reporting from E3, is impressed. In an interview with Rev3Games, Hello Games Managing Director Sean Murray was a little cagey on the generative aspects of the game. Unlike Proteus, the worlds, while created computationally using a random seed, every player sees the same universe. One can “discover” species and places, and despite overwhelming odds, it is evidently possible to run into others visiting the same place. Even though it won’t give me my very own, unique-to-me environment to go sightseeing, I still look forward to posting screenshots set to Björk lyrics, like I did with Proteus last year.

The comic intimacy of Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair's 'High Maintanence' web series

“We’re all bothered by this pesky itch; we all want to look but no one wants to be seen looking. High Maintenance is sweet salve for this irritation.” This review from Micah Hauser was a lot more insightful into the human condition than I would have given a review about a web series credit for. I first heard about High Maintenance, a series of short episdes pivoting around an independent narcotics-by-bicycle distributor, from a post on MetaFilter, and subsequently binge-watched all the previous episodes in one big gulp.

My favourites are “Helen”, about a lonely caretaker who orders everything online and calls over his drug dealer, only for company and “Heidi”, about a man in a new relationship who discovers The Guy knows her already. (Greta Lee, who you might remember as Soo Jin on HBO's Girls, plays the episode’s title character.)

Quote about the Home of the Future

This is a link to quote is from Chasing the Perfect: Thoughts on Modernist Design in Our Time by Natalia Ilyin, pulled from the chapter in which Ilyin reflects on a visit to a Puget Sound company’s version of the Connected Home, which assumed “ongoing, inevitable entertainment, continual communication, constant surveillance.” I’m reading Ilyin’s autobiographical critique of Modernism and its desire to wipe out imperfections on the strength of Joe Clark's category of posts dedicated to the book. His initial review in 2007 has a few lengthy quotes.

Vancouverites can thank me for asking my local library to buy a copy of the book. Other quotes that caught my attention: a concluding thought about her stay at a house with straight lines and air conditioning and the relationship between objects and ideas.

Coincidentally, I read the chapter from which I drew this quote just before Denim & Steel linked to Wired's cautionary tale of the connected home. In Mat Honan’s fictional account, every appliance is hooked up to the Internet and, despite his best efforts, every one of his Internet of Things is compromised. This is the flip side of Ilyin’s dystopia. Instead of everything working as designed to the detriment of its owner, the home’s automated systems in Honan’s vision have all run amok.